verb ex·on·er·ate \ ig-ˈzä-nə-ˌrāt , eg- \

Definition of exonerate

exonerated; exonerating
transitive verb
1 :to relieve of a responsibility, obligation, or hardship
2 :to clear from accusation or blame


play \ig-ˌzä-nə-ˈrā-shən, eg-\ noun


play \ig-ˈzä-nə-ˌrā-tiv, eg-\ adjective

exonerate was our Word of the Day on 02/08/2016. Hear the podcast!

Examples of exonerate in a Sentence

  1. the results of the DNA fingerprinting finally exonerated the man, but only after he had wasted 10 years of his life in prison

Recent Examples of exonerate from the Web

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'exonerate.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

Where Does exonerate Come From?

We won't blame you if you don't know the origins of today's word. Exonerate derives via Middle English from the past participle of the Latin verb exonerare, meaning "to unburden," formed by combining the prefix ex- with onus, meaning "load" or "burden" (onus itself lives on with that meaning in English). In its earliest uses, dating from the 16th century, exonerate was used in the context of physical burdens—a ship, for example, could be exonerated of its cargo when it was unloaded. Later it was used in reference to any kind of burden, until a more specific sense developed, meaning "to relieve (someone) of blame."

Origin and Etymology of exonerate

Middle English, from Latin exoneratus, past participle of exonerare to unburden, from ex- + oner-, onus load

Synonym Discussion of exonerate

exculpate, absolve, exonerate, acquit, vindicate mean to free from a charge. exculpate implies a clearing from blame or fault often in a matter of small importance.
    • exculpating himself from the charge of overenthusiasm
absolve implies a release either from an obligation that binds the conscience or from the consequences of disobeying the law or committing a sin.
    • cannot be absolved of blame
exonerate implies a complete clearance from an accusation or charge and from any attendant suspicion of blame or guilt.
    • exonerated by the investigation
acquit implies a formal decision in one's favor with respect to a definite charge.
    • voted to acquit the defendant
vindicate may refer to things as well as persons that have been subjected to critical attack or imputation of guilt, weakness, or folly, and implies a clearing effected by proving the unfairness of such criticism or blame.
    • her judgment was vindicated

EXONERATE Defined for English Language Learners



Definition of exonerate for English Language Learners

  • : to prove that someone is not guilty of a crime or responsible for a problem, bad situation, etc.

Law Dictionary


transitive verb ex·on·er·ate \ ig-ˈzä-nə-ˌrāt, eg- \

legal Definition of exonerate

exonerated; exonerating
1 :to relieve especially of a charge, obligation, or hardship
2 :to clear from accusation or blame — compare acquit, exculpate

Origin and Etymology of exonerate

Latin exonerare to relieve, free, discharge, from ex- out + onerare to burden, from oner-, onus load

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a ram's-horn trumpet used in Judaism

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